Procrastination Station: Part II – The Law of Intertia, the Lie of Multitasking, and the Truth of Discipline

So in the last post, Procrastination Station: Part I – Priorities, Productivity, and Eating Crow, we talked about some of the effects of procrastination and lack of productivity. And we were left with a question: how can we get the train from Procrastination Station to ProductivityVille?

Answer: We have to buy a ticket on the Determination Express and ride the line of Hard Discipline. Okay, admittedly, I got caught up in the train lingo, what can I say? I enjoy a pithy metaphor. And no, the irony does not escape me that, not surprisingly, it has taken me more than a week to write this conclusion. Nevertheless, in this post, I have set out to nail down some specifics that I am learning about combating procrastination as it is a continual struggle for me on this journey of writing SurpriseYou’reAdopted.com

  1. Realize What’s Fueling Your Procrastination. On the surface, it’s easy to attribute procrastination to just laziness. And I am willing to concede that sometimes, the chores that we have to do or responsibilities that we have to take care of are just not as fun  or as easy as ignoring those things and vegging out all day. I think we can all agree that Netflix is more appealing than writing your term paper, or finishing that PowerPoint deck for work on Monday. But more often than not, there’s usually another layer of something holding us back.
  • Is your procrastination coming out of fear? If I’m being honest, for me it always comes back to some kind of perfection paralysis fear. My post is not going to be perfect, my approach is never going to be just right; I could always be doing more, it’s never going to be enough, why even bother trying at all?
  • Is your procrastination coming out of being overwhelmed? I know that a large part of mine is. Right this very moment I could list any one of ten different people that are doing leaps and bounds more than me with this writing thing. Often, we can get caught up in not knowing where to start. I might have writers block, or even a mess of ideas that I have no clue how to organize that feels insurmountable.
  • Is your procrastination coming from a disillusionment that you have more time than you think you do? This one gets me all the time. I will never be early for anything I do in life because my brain always assumes that I have more time than I think. But again, this is a part of growing up: realizing your real parameters, preparing for the inevitable roadblocks, leaving yourself extra time to accept the unexpected.
  1. Acknowledge the Source and Move On…the Key word here being MOVE. I wish that I could sit here and tell you that there is a magic remedy to these roots. There’s not. We’re all scared of failing something. Guess what? We need to start anyway. You may not end up with a perfect PowerPoint deck for work, but I can guarantee you that in most circumstances, your boss will notice if you don’t get it done at all. You may be putting off that term paper (or blog post) because you’re scared of bombing it and failing that class (or writing useless crap that gets you nowhere), but you will definitely fail if you turn in nothing at all.

On this topic I am throwing down the gauntlet to declare that good things don’t come to those who wait, they come to those that will themselves to start. And as far as the disillusionment of having time on your side, I’m here to tell you that Murphy’s Law is real and it is the rule, not the exception. So we need to start training ourselves to hit the GO button. I say ‘training’ because it’s like a muscle, it takes practice, dedication, and consistency. Doing something is better than doing nothing. And true, you may not get exactly where you wanted to get, but on the other hand, you will never get anywhere at all if you don’t start, and then you will never know what could have been. I may not know exactly how to get through that post, that work project or that paper; but I know how to turn off the TV, I know how to start the computer, I know how to create a fresh document. So break it down into smaller steps that you can do, find the little wins along the way, and eventually it will all add up to the big W.

Additionally, when we put off our responsibilities, we ultimately rob ourselves of the prime circumstances to produce our best work. Now I’ll be the first person to admit, I need a deadline, I need the pressure of a time limit, that helps me…at least I think it does. Truth: I have always been a terrible procrastinator, so I tell myself that I work well under pressure because I’ve never given myself another option. What could I do with an extra day to edit? Would I be a less neurotic person with lower blood pressure and a better product? I’ll tell you what, I’m working on finding out.

  1. Realize that the Law of Inertia is Real. For those of you that zoned out during eleventh grade physics, the law of inertia states something like “a thing in motion stays in motion and a thing at rest stays at rest unless acted upon by an outside force.” And for those of you that actually paid attention and did well in physics and then went on to do something fabulous with your lives like actually studying science and are sitting there thinking that I have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m willing to concede that, but gimme a break, alright? I’m doing the best I can, I’m obviously a writer for a reason.

Where was I? Oh yeah…inertia. In Part I of this set, I talked about not having written my blog for a good six weeks. And reality is, halfway through that, I hadn’t written in so long, that I lost my momentum, and it only further added to my dilemma. Now I had to share why I wasn’t writing, write something remarkable to come back, figure out how to not get off track again, honestly the whole thing just feels massive. The point is, starting up from a state of rest is tough, and often a much bigger challenge. So do yourself a favor and don’t waste your momentum, do everything you can to keep it going.

  1. Realize that Multitasking is a LIE. I know that there are a million books and articles out there about multitasking, and that it’s a great “skill” that we all like to put on our resumes. But honestly, I think that in this age of phones that can play music, computers that can surf the net and live chat, and Pert Plus 2 in 1 conditioner, we have bought into a rouse that multitasking is a skill that we can not only accomplish, but are expected to master.

Maybe our technology, and possibly even our shampoo can multitask, but we humans certainly can’t. What we call multitasking is really just interrupting ourselves from accomplishing any one thing at a time in a timely manner. Several organizational studies today show that multitasking is the antonym of focus and the nemesis of productivity. I NEED to learn how to focus again. Even just in the time-span of writing this post, I have checked my phone twice, gotten up to add sugar to my coffee, started three other posts, and contemplated going on Pinterest to research my Thailand trip (Reality Check: I have procrastinated finishing this two-part post so much that I am now sitting in Hong Kong International Airport three hours away from landing in Bangkok). Not to mention the fact that I don’t ever write in straight sequence, when I write, I spill all of my ideas in random order and flesh them out in random order as well…sorry if that’s apparent. If you’re like me, getting distracted by everything that you have to do and then trying to do it all at once, we need a new plan. So by all means, make a list of everything that you have to do, and tackle them, but take them on one at a time. Practice finishing each one and then moving on to the next. It will be hard at first, but you will be more productive. Getting four things done on a list of ten is better than tackling all ten and getting none of them finished at all.

  1. Remember What the Real Goal Is. We have to figure out how to do the hard job of reminding ourselves that we want the overall result more than we want to spend the day watching Netflix. We have to learn to remember that sometimes the destination IS worth more, knowing that our end goal is worth more than the reward of instant gratification. We have to remind ourselves that we chose the thing that we are putting off because we actually DO want it. We chose to get that degree, to go for that promotion, to run that race, to lose that weight, to write that blog.

Plato once wrote, “The first and best victory is to conquer self.” There’s also a saying somewhere by somebody that goes something like, She that knows discipline knows freedom.” This is the Truth of Discipline. Discipline is the key to freedom, the key to unlocking the person you have inside. Discipline is the key to our potential. Discipline is choosing your goal over instant gratification time and time again. This means committing to the right road rather than the right now, to accomplish something that means a great deal more to you. And after a while, you realize that choosing your goal is choosing yourself. Safe Travels!

“There are no short cuts to any place worth going.”
— Beverly Sills

“Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.” — Lao Tzu

“We are what we repeatedly do, excellence then is not an act, but a habit.” — Aristotle

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High School 2.0

I wasn’t going to do a post on this because it seemed personal and more inconsequential to the outside world than my previous posts. None of this information is revolutionary. Also, it makes me feel like a huge dork and waaaaay too vulnerable…which is exactly why I decided that I needed to share it anyway.

I recently went to my 10-year high school reunion…

I waited until the absolute last minute to decide to go to that reunion. Thinking about walking into that reunion felt a lot like walking into high school freshman year. All of a sudden my palms started sweating, my throat went dry and everything that I was wearing felt wrong and my hair forgot how to be normal…I had all but resigned myself to not going, especially since I had thrown a big retirement party for my mother that afternoon.  Anyone that knows me knows I am a curl up on the couch under the blankets, binge-reading and watching Netflix kind of decompressor, not one to rally and go out after having spent the last 24 hours surrounded by people…say it with me: Introvert.

I moved to California to go to college and then back to Chicago after that, and truth be told, I don’t hang out with anyone that went to my high school from my graduating class. So who was I possibly going to talk to? And for those of you that weren’t there, let me just give you a glimpse into the nerd-dom that was my high-school career:

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I didn’t go to a grade school in my community that fed right into my high school. I knew a grand total of two people going into high school. I didn’t have an established group of friends at school, so I ended up getting along with a little bit of everybody. I got good enough grades. After giving the swim team the old high school try my freshman year, and realizing that it wasn’t a good fit with asthma and needing knee surgery in the middle of the sophomore season, I ended up in the theatre (mostly because I was terrified of saying no to the directors) I did contest plays and group interpretations, and then devoted my every waking minute to the Speech team when I wasn’t working on the newspaper staff. I eventually became president of the Drama Club and the Editor-in-Chief of the Newspaper…so obviously I was the most popular kid in school…Oh, no wait, my life isn’t an episode of ‘Popular’…yeah now I remember, I was a huge dork.

So there I was, feeling great about my excuses for NOT making it to my reunion. But then I stepped back and realized that that was exactly all they were, excuses. At the same time, it occurred to me that I have been at this juncture before.

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I know that this is really cheesy, but I didn’t go to my prom. I had some interesting experiences in place of it, but looking back, I kinda wish I had. I always thought that I would go to my own prom growing up, then the time came and went and I just didn’t. Standing there deliberating over whether or not to go to this reunion, I realized that I had the exact same thought process. I always thought that I would go to my reunion, (who am I kidding?! I totally daydreamed about being a rich writer/actor/oscar-winner/director/philanthropist at my reunion, arriving in a helicopter prepared to lift everyone to my Chicago-based penthouse where the real party would commence – don’t ask me how I was going to fit everyone in one helicopter, planning was clearly not part of the daydream…And don’t act like you didn’t have similar day dreams of crazy success, I know I’m not the only delusional one…).

This specific pattern was one that led me to some regret in the past. Now there are a lot of bigger things to regret for sure, but the point is, I didn’t want a repeat of that. I didn’t want to miss out on another opportunity that only comes by once. For better or for worse, you only get one real ten year reunion, with all its awkwardness and anxiety.

I was sure that the reunion would suck, (not in any way due to the planning, our class president did a great job). But I also realized that I didn’t want to spend the next ten years wondering if that reunion sucked, I would rather just have that experience, sucky or not, and know. Admittedly, the decision to go didn’t quell the rising nerves, crazy hair or wardrobe crisis that I was facing. I was on the verge of a full-blown panic attack…

Then I remembered that I am a GROWN WOMAN. I’m self-sufficient, and accomplished and I have spent the last ten years learning how to be me. In the famous words of that wise sage, Drew Barrymore:  “I’m not Josie-Grossie Anymore!”

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I think we all kinda feel like Josie Grossie…I’m pretty sure that we all spent high school trying to be relevant, just trying to be seen, just trying to matter. Thank God that we can all now just spend our time with the people that we love, just trying to survive, pay our bills and enjoy life. Nobody else has to live your life, so what does it matter what anyone else thinks of you anyway? I know how to feel comfortable in my own body and my own clothes and I am comfortable with who I am. I am capable of holding great conversations with people. I have 2 degrees in pretty social industries.

While my daydreams of stardom clearly didn’t happen yet (sorry guys, maybe in ten years) there are a few things that I did learn:

NUMBER 1: Alcohol at a reunion is a great idea. Too much alcohol is not, but for the most part, it’s awesome to have something to lubricate an awkward situation to help everyone be a little more brave and take a chance on talking to someone that they know but might otherwise pretend not to out on the street during your lunch break in the middle of the work day.

NUMBER 2: NO ONE is better than anyone else, and NO ONE is cool in high school.

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At your reunion, the beautiful and popular people will still be beautiful and sociable and close. But you come to see everyone in a new light. With luck, everyone has grown up and realizes that inevitable truth: that we are all nerds just trying to go through life without looking stupid. Everyone was just as uncomfortable and nervous as everyone else. I think everyone feels just as nerdy, just as out of place, just as desperate to be accepted, just as awkward around their past secret crush that they never worked up the courage to talk to in the past…So I decided to dive in, and go big or go home. I spoke with people that used to intimidate me. I spoke with guys that were outright mean to me in school. I even connected with some great mentors again. And I had a really great time.

NUMBER 3: At the end of the day, having friends always counts for much more than how you come across them.

I used to worry about fitting in with the right people at the right times, not to the point where I forced friendships, but I was always a little jealous of the girls at school who just seemed to belong to a specific group. They knew where they fit. Some people say the friends you make in high school will be for life, some people say it’s college, some people say it’s grade-school or on your first job. The truth is, the more people I meet, the more obvious it becomes that you can meet great people that will enrich your life at any point, from anywhere.

Each group is pretty much equal. It doesn’t matter what circle you are in as much as it matters that you find a circle eventually. Size doesn’t matter as much as quality. If you have a few good friends that you can trust implicitly, that will be there through anything, that will tell you the truth when you need it, that will love you no matter what, that understand and share your sense of humor, you are a rich person.

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